The digital divide presents profound challenges for communities and families who already face significant obstacles to building a strong and healthy life, obstacles that have only grown more profound over the last 13 months.
That’s why last week ALLvanza was proud to partner with the Multicultural Media, Telecom and Internet Council and OCA – Asian Pacific American Advocates to present the latest installment in our Moving Underserved Communities Forward event series: Equity, Access and the Digital Divide. The webinar discussion featured Acting FCC Chair Jessica Rosenworcel and Acting Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Communications and Information Evelyn Remaley.
The conversation was premised on the understanding that, when it comes to programs focused on improving internet access, we have a responsibility to ensure that the people with the greatest need see the greatest benefits.
That means developing impactful policy while avoiding the temptation to implement one-size-fits-all solutions. It also means building meaningful partnerships that take into account the particular needs of specific communities. That includes dealing with the language barrier that exists in some cases, but it also means engaging existing organizations who have deep roots in Latino, Asian, Native, African American communities and more. And it means targeting federal resources to unserved communities to ensure that we are helping those the truly need support.
As ALLvanza has repeatedly pointed out, getting someone online means more than providing an internet connection and walking away. Truly closing the digital divide includes providing individuals with education and skills training to access digital resources safely as well as the physical equipment they need to get online.
Our panelists were clear that they see our current moment not just as a profoundly important opportunity to address the issues that have been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic but to make the choices—and the investments—that will set all of our communities up for success in the years to come. ALLvanza recognizes this is not a job that the government or the telecommunications industry can do alone; it’s going to require public/private partnerships that allow all the stakeholders to bring their strengths to the table.
Closing the digital divide will also take a concerted effort to ensure our regulatory systems are constructed in a way that reflects our values and removes unnecessary bureaucratic burdens standing in the way of faster internet access for underserved communities. We need policies that ensure government resources are used strategically so we’re not, for example, overbuilding infrastructure in a way that only sets us up for frustration in the years to come. And we must continue to work to find a permanent solution to the digital divide.
As Acting Chairwoman Rosenworcel and Acting Assistant Secretary Remaley made clear, these are big challenges, but also a unique chance to create new collaborations between communities, industry and government because we all share the common goal of ensuring that everyone can have the reliable digital access and tools they need to participate fully in our new innovation economy. And ALLvanza will continue working with all stakeholders to make sure our country’s investments are targeted to prioritize those who are on the wrong side of the digital divide.